The San Francisco 49ers, who have been linked to countless veteran quarterbacks this offseason as potential insurance or replacements to Jimmy Garoppolo, are quickly seeing the quarterback market dry up. With two reported targets in Andy Dalton and Mitchell Trubisky now having respectively landed in Chicago and Buffalo, the Niners have turned their attention to a former Super Bowl champion.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo on Thursday, the 49ers will be hosting 36-year-old free agent quarterback Joe Flacco for a visit, whom the insider explicitly described as “a potential experienced backup behind Jimmy G.”
While Rapoport’s mention was a subtle one, it could further signal that Garoppolo is in the driver’s seat to start under center in 2021, as general manager John Lynch has suggested in recent weeks.
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Flacco Defeated 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII
San Francisco is at least somewhat familiar with the work of Flacco, now entering his 14th season in the NFL. In 2012, the former Baltimore Ravens first-rounder caught fire and led his 10-6 Wild Card team to a 34-31 Super Bowl XLVII victory over the Jim Harbaugh-coached Niners. His 287-yard, three-touchdown, zero-interception performance that night also earned him Super Bowl MVP honors.
Since then, Flacco has extended his career another eight years, finally changing squads in 2019 and spending the last two seasons with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets.
After being cut loose by Denver last March, the Jets signed Flacco to a one-year, $1.5 million deal last May as a veteran backup for former No. 3 pick Sam Darnold. In what turned out to be an NFL-worst 2-14 season in the Big Apple, Flacco ended up starting four games in Weeks 5, 6, 9 and 11. With a turnstile of an offensive line to protect him the results were not stellar, but not atrocious either: 864 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions, 55% completion percentage and an 80.6 passer rating.
However, in his final two starts, Flacco looked to be the best option the Jets had, nearly leading New York to a surprise Monday night upset over the division rival New England Patriots in Week 9.
Not many teams are banging down the door to sign Flacco, suggesting he can likely be had on a team-friendly veterans minimum contract assuming his medicals check out. Any new signal-caller will join Garoppolo, Josh Rosen and Josh Johnson as the quarterbacks currently under contract in San Fran.
After their initial round of free agent signings this week, the 49ers still have $12.8 million of salary cap space to work with according to Spotrac, $6-8 million of which will need to be set aside for the team’s incoming 2021 draft class.
49ers Sign Former Cardinals Wide Receiver
The Niners did make a formal free agent addition on Thursday, signing former Arizona Cardinals wideout Trent Sherfield to a one-year deal, per Garafolo.
The 25-year-old originally entered the league in 2018 as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt. In his first three seasons, the 6-foot-1, 219-pounder has tallied 28 receptions, 340 yards and one touchdown across 44 games, the majority of which came during a breakout rookie season. Despite a prominent special teams role — in which he has played 43% and 50% of the unit’s snaps over the past two seasons respectively — Sherfield remained buried on the Cardinals’ depth chart in recent years behind the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and more.
With Kendrick Bourne having departed to New England on a three-year, $15 million deal, there should be additional opportunities for Sherfield and the rest of the 49ers receiving corps to take advantage of next season.
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